Birmingham, B29

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Council customer service

posted by pindec
Last year, Jon Bounds set up a Birmingham City Council area on the Get Satisfaction site, which provides an online space for people to discuss problems with organisations. This is particularly interesting in the context of the Council's own rather opaque complaints system (what would you call a "Leadership Line" for? I called it to find out, and got a recorded message saying "This line has now been decommissioned" ... awesome) and lack of online discussion facilities.

We are customers (apologies for terrible image quality)The Council seems to have shifted its view of its constituents to see us all as "customers", but has failed to make a corresponding shift to provide a better level of "customer service". The Council has a responsibility to be transparent about its decisions and spending in order to make us "customers" feel like we're getting value for money and that our views are being heard. At the moment, it's far too difficult to try and extract that information from their clumsily cluttered website (they've turned their search off until they launch a new site, but no date is given, and you only get the warning on the front page. Super helpful). This is particularly mysterious after they won an e-government award in 2007 for simplifying citizen's access to information, including "Customer First – ensuring customers receive basic, fast and accurate services with a single, friendly and professional contact point for all queries". Where is it? Oh, via google, there it is - they don't seem to have implemented it, and don't give a date for its launch. *sigh*.

Our own Michael Grimes has set up a Selly Oak ward area within the Get Satisfaction / Birmingham City Council area, for everyone to discuss/comment about local issues there - please do add your concerns, questions etc.. I've posted an idea about the Council lending out speed cameras to people who want to log/display the speeds of motorists in their area (a personal topic - I keep nearly getting squished on the Pershore Road).

However, in the context of increasing surveillance across Birmingham, it would be interesting to get some other ideas to resolve the problem: are more cameras (albeit mobile non-fining ones) really a good solution? You might also want to sign the 20 MPH e-petition (a surprisingly 21st Century initiative from BCC).

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Thursday, 18 June 2009

MPs allowances published

posted by pindec
The official Parliament site has published (censored) MP allowances forms for the past few years - the interesting ones are the "Additional Cost Allowances".

You can see Lynne Jones' here - nothing too outrageous despite expensive taste in wallpaper and a few problems adding up. Though she seems to have spent quite a lot on decorating, for one job she's declared that despite having oak flooring put down, she only claimed for pine.

B29ers in other constituencies can find Gisela Stuart's expenses here and Richard Burden's here - though Richard's seem to be missing the Additional Cost Allowances for 07/08.

One surprise is that these are handwritten: how can MPs not have an electronic system to log their expenses? It doesn't help the impression that MPs are still living in the 19th Century (albeit with 21st Century expenses claims).

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Wednesday, 17 June 2009

mapping B29: our view

posted by pindec
Thanks to Michael's sterling work in mapping out B29 in google maps, we can now create our own map of the area. He's made the map open to everyone with a google account. I really like the idea of creating our views of the area before the Google Maps street car comes round :).

It woud be great to see your views of the area on the map. The first thing you'll need to do is get a google maps account, then click the "save to my maps" link on the map itself. If you haven't used google maps before, here's a handy guide to editing maps - though on the B29 map you're free to use whatever icons you like - I've started by using green pins for street signs.

We've kicked off by adding some street names to the map - have fun!

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Monday, 8 June 2009

B29 street names

posted by Michael Grimes
Yes, it's a very boring topic for a post; but as I can't find a comprehensive list of B29 street names anywhere, I decided to write one myself.

Names have been taken from the Google map that I created earlier, so (knowing Google Maps) there may be some mistakes. And of course I may have missed some, so if you spot a mistake or an omission please do let us know.

There are well over 200 streets, so to save it taking up useful space on this page you can see the list of B29 street names here.

European elections - results

posted by pindec
No Rusty Lee for MEP, despite UKIP coming second in European Parliament elections in the West Midlands overall.

Celeb MEP-fans need not panic, though - Michael Cashman got returned, though this time it'll be a lonely Birmingham-Brussels commute without any other Labour colleagues (and despite his registered address seeming to be in London...).

Local results: unavailable from Election Office?

Interestingly, although BCC is the Election Office for the Euro elections, and their election results page promises that results are published online before anywhere else, they don't seem to be providing any stats - linking instead to the BBC.

The BBC main news site has a full list for the region, and the BBC's WM area has a partial local breakdown for Birmingham. It's not clear whether we'll ever get a local results list off the BCC ... even though they are very revealing, showing that for Birmingham itself, UKIP was placed fourth behind the Conservatives, Labour and the Lib Dems.


Despite predictions of major upsets, 5/6 MEPs are the same - just UKIP's Nikki Sinclaire being a new bunny, though according to her rather horribly yellow site (not yet updated to celebrate her win), she's been working as the other UKIP MEP's political advisor. Nikki's also planning to travel by Easyjet and stay in 2* hotels to use her MEP allowances to the best benefit of UKIP. Would be great to see those receipts published on her site, perhaps?

Our WM MEPs are now:


  • Philip Bradbourn
  • Malcolm Harbour


  • Mike Nattrass
  • Nikki Sinclaire


  • Michael Cashman

Lib Dems:

  • Liz Lynne
WM extremism?

I'm pleased the BNP didn't get any MEPs in the region, though they did poll 8.6% of the vote - or 121,967 votes in total - with a 34.8% turnout. Seems pretty high, even though it's only an increase of 1.1% on 2004 - perhaps some comfort to be taken in a worsening political and economic situation not moving the WM electorate to extremist views.

Unless of course, you take UKIP to be an extremist view. Perhaps this will prove to be the election in which UKIP became the acceptable face of anti-European, anti-immigration policies. It remains to be seen how acceptable they remain with respect to the alliances they may make in the European Parliament, and where they go with policy statements like "we believe the traditional British way of life is inherently good, and should be promoted for its own sake": cuddly fascists are still fascists.

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Saturday, 6 June 2009

battery demolition

posted by pindec
The lovely jdk653 contacted us to point us towards a Birmingham Post, um, post about the demolition of the Battery building as part of the new Sainsbury's development despite efforts by conservationists (including the venerable Prof Carl Chinn) to save it.

UPDATE: I went down to Battery Park on Sun 7th and took some pictures of the demolition in progress:

The original planning document (2004) specifically mentions that the building was to be repaired, though the BCC site skirts over the demolition vs repairs issue. According to the Post, Sainsbury's say the building is unsafe and therefore can't be repaired. There are some pretty amazing pics on the derelict places site, which reports that a couple of people fell through floors during the shoot.

There's a few conflicting reports about the listed status of the building - the Stirrer reckoned it was, but the SkyscraperCity forums had a few posts from people saying it wasn't - and the Council's listed lists doesn't include it (though the Goose at the OVT is in :)). Either way, it looks like the loss of an historic building.

Also, the "mixed-use development" that's being built on the Battery site includes a technology park: where does that leave the not-quite-built-yet biomedical science park on the old Pebble Mill site (due 2015)? Oh BCC, with these science/tech parks you are really spoiling us ...

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Thursday, 4 June 2009

Google map of the Birmingham B29 postcode area

posted by Michael Grimes
In this post – my first ever on this blog – I've had a crack at plotting Birmingham B29 on a Google Map, with fair success if I may say so.

View Birmingham B29 in a larger map

Thanks to James Thornett for his static map of B29 which served as an invaluable guide.

I'm going to try to do more with this, but in the meantime you can add it to your Google Maps account if you have one. You can then see other maps – such as Pindec's B29 Meandering Games - layered over the top.

If you don't already have one you can get a Google account here.